Tuesday, January 24, 2023


My late friend Clive James was a prolific emailer. One of the trickiest things about corresponding with the great man was trying to recommend books to him that he hadn’t already read. It was like walking a tightrope, which you could fall off in two ways. 

One way was to recommend a book so well-known that you would look like a rube for thinking anyone hadn’t read it. The other danger lay in recommending something that was obscure for good reason – i.e., because it was tripe. 

I once thought I’d found the ideal needle-threading recommendation for him: Open, the 2009 autobiography of Andre Agassi. For starters, the book was freakishly good ...

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Creepy Dolls

When the first trailer for the film M3GAN dropped in October last year, it achieved the highest honour that any modern content-creator can aspire to. It went viral, thanks to a five-second sequence in which M3GAN, the expressionless robot doll of the title, performed a very capable and therefore very eerie dance. Reaction videos proliferated. M3GAN memes multiplied. Within a month, TikTok videos with the M3GAN hashtag had racked up 300 million views.

M3GAN is short for Model 3 Generative Android. In the film, her name is pronounced the American way, to rhyme with beggin’ rather than vegan. Whether the film will make a bigger splash than its own trailer remains to be seen. Philosophically, it has interesting things to say about the perils of artificial intelligence. More primally, it taps into a theme that’s been freaking people out since the dawn of cinema: the theme of the creepy doll ... [READ MORE]

Satire with Guts

Whoever decided to release Triangle of Sadness at Christmas time in Australia must have a sense of humour as wicked as that of the movie itself. Written and directed by the Swedish filmmaker Ruben Ostlund, Triangle is a bracing movie, but it isn’t your standard holiday fare. When it premiered at Cannes earlier this year, it won the Palme d’Or, and got an eight-minute standing ovation. It also prompted some audience walkouts, for reasons we’ll get to.

I knew I was going to love the film after an early scene set at a fashion parade ... [READ MORE]